News you can Use on Digital Estate Planning            By Margaret Norman, Attorney ©

Do you store business information on your computer? What about family photos? Do you have an eBay® account?  If your answer to these questions is “yes” you will be surprised to hear that if you become seriously ill or die, all that information may not be available to your heirs.

There is an act called “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” which would make that information available but it has to be passed separately by each state.

Until then, you should  do some estate planning that involves digital assets.  First the assets belong in two groups, and the solution to the problems are different.
1)   Online accounts
Gmail®, Yahoo®, AOL® and other email sites,  Facebook®, Ebay®, Yahoo®, Amazon®, and Twitter® all have terms of service  agreements that you accept. Those terms can prevent a successor of yours from getting into the account. Information that you may have wanted to keep may be deleted in the future, and not available to your heirs  at all.  

Problem: How can you allow your heirs to have access to these accounts?

Solution: You can have an authorization document prepared stating who will be the person to access these sites.  That person should be someone you trust as well as somebody who is good with online data.  At the moment, each site has its own rules, and it won’t be easy to access this information. Separate from your authorization document,  you should list all the sites that you are on as well as your password and screen name. Put on flash drive. Place in home safe. Try not to use bank safety deposit box.   

2)  Files on your computer, I pad and I phone

Many people keep business records, tax records, online banking records, phone numbers and Christmas card lists, you may have websites of your own.

Problem: How do you enable your family to access this information if you were seriously ill or deceased?  How can this be done with safety?

Solution: A small flash drive is a little exterior drive that can store all that information.  It must be a high quality device known as a Single Layer Cell (SLC).   Put your passwords on it, screen names, the latest stock statement, your banking information, and whatever else you want to keep. Put it into an envelope and place in a safe to which only you and a trusted person have the combination.   You may want to print the information on paper and include it with the lists that you have electronically.  Heat, moisture and time are all things that can change or damage a thumb drive.  Paper has some of the same problems, but a little bit of redundancy is ok for keeping track of these important items.   If you have a computer that can make a CD or DVD you can use that to keep those important files, just remember everything has good and bad points.  

A common myth is that even without your passwords, it is possible to get access to your computer documents. Leonard Bernstein died in 1990 and left a password protected memoir, that has never been recovered.   You can check your password strength by entering something similar on some of the sites that score your password, but NEVER enter your actual password on the sites that “Check Your Password”.

Some of those sites are:

Microsoft ®

Kaspersky ®